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Verbi di cambio ortografico
There’s no official name for them, but I refer to Italian verbs that end in –care, –gare, and –cire as "spelling change verbs" because they have a small spelling change in certain conjugations. For the most part, these verbs are conjugated just like regular verbs, other than a little problem in some conjugations that must be corrected for reasons of pronunciation. It’s easy enough to do, once you understand why and how.
Note that spelling change verbs are not the same thing as stem-changing verbs.
The letter c followed by a, as in the verb cercare, is pronounced [k]. But look at what happens when you conjugate it in the present tense like a regular –are verb:
For most of the conjugations, there’s no problem: the c is followed by o or a, so the pronunciation is correct. But in "cerci" and "cerciamo," the c is followed by i, which means the c is pronounced [ʃ] (see Hard and soft vowels). Since we want the c to be pronounced [k] like it is in the infinitive and the other conjugations, we need to harden it by adding h
More -care verbs
|cercare||to look for|
|elencare||to make a list|
Verbs that end in –gare have the exact same problem. The letter g followed by a, as in the verb pagare, is pronounced [g]. But here’s what happens when you conjugate it in the present tense:
Once again, for most of the conjugations, there’s no problem: the t is followed by o or a, so the pronunciation is [g]. But in "pago" and "pagiamo," the g is followed by i, which means the g is pronounced [dʒ]. To get back to [g], we need to harden the g by adding h
More -gare verbs
|impiegare||to use; to take (time)|
|navigare||to steer, sail|
These few verbs have just the opposite problem. The letter c followed by i, as in the infinitive cucire, is pronounced [tʃ]. But when you conjugate it in the present tense like a regular –ire verb:
In "cuco" and "cucono," the c is followed by o, which means the c is pronounced [k] (see Hard and soft vowels). Since we want the c to be pronounced [tʃ] like it is in the infinitive and the other conjugations, we need to soften it by adding i
More -cire verbs
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Ciao! I’m Laura K Lawless, creator, writer, editor, and CLO (Chief Lawless Officer) of this free online Italian learning site. Lawless Italian is an official Lawless Languages site.